Rep. Mary Dye: California is too expensive for Washington’s energy economy
Several days ago, the Wall Street Journal issued a report about California’s “soaring electricity rates.” Average residential rates for investor-owned utility customers have surged by 72% to 127% over the past 10 years. About 2.5 million households in California are behind on their bills, averaging $733 in arrears.
According to the Energy Information Administration, California has the second highest average retail price for electricity at $.22 per kilowatt hour.
Fuel prices in California are the highest in the nation at an average $4.58 a gallon, while the national average is $3.14.
California is also the state that has the most unaffordable housing market and the second highest cost of living overall. And California policymakers just can’t seem to help themselves. Everything they touch related to energy markets ends in disaster and higher prices for their consumers.
With such a track record, why would Washington want to emulate California?
And yet, with policies passed in recent years by the Democratic majority in the Washington Legislature, our state may soon join California as one of the most unaffordable places to live in the nation.
What kind of policies?
In 2020, Gov. Inslee signed Senate Bill 5811 that requires Washington to adopt California motor vehicle emissions standards, effectively linking our policies to what California decides.
In August 2022, California passed rules banning the sale of new-gas powered cars by 2035. One month later, the Washington Department of Ecology (DOE) proposed rules banning the sale of new, gas-powered vehicles in our state by 2035. This, despite a KING 5 poll, that showed nearly half of Washington voters oppose the ban.
In 2020, Berkeley, California became the first in the nation to ban natural gas in new construction. Despite a federal appeals court overturning the ban, majority Democrats in our state passed House Bill 1589 in January that would ban natural gas in new and commercial buildings served by Puget Sound Energy. The American Gas Association says natural gas bans not only make housing more expensive, but boost heating costs by $1,400 annually.
Fifteen years after California adopted it’s cap-and-trade program, Washington followed in 2021 by passing Senate Bill 5126, the Climate Commitment Act (CCA). Under Washington’s cap-and-trade program, entities that emit carbon dioxide, including oil companies, must buy allowances at state auctions. My fellow House Republicans and I accurately predicted cap-and-trade would significantly raise the cost of gasoline and diesel. In fact, when it took effect in January 2023, fuel prices soared. In June, Washington actually surpassed California as the most expensive state for gas at $4.93 a gallon.
Now, DOE wants to link the state’s cap-and-trade program with the California-Quebec market, saying it could lower Washington’s carbon allowance prices. In fact, a Democratic-sponsored measure, House Bill 2201, would grease the skids for Washington to connect its energy economy to California.
This is a mistake. Not only would linkage require a loss of sovereignty for Washington, DOE’s forecast of 2023 auction prices were wildly inaccurate, understating compliance costs by 75%. This is the same agency that failed to honor the farm, aviation, and marine fuel exemptions under the CCA, hitting our farmers hard in their pocketbooks. And now we are to trust DOE that California linkage would lower prices? The outcomes are too uncertain for us to put our trust in the DOE and our future in California’s hands.
Energy is central to the affordability of your commute, the food you buy, home heating and cooling. We shouldn’t be California. More than 418,000 Washington citizens who signed Initiative 2117 agree. The initiative to the Legislature would repeal the state’s regressive carbon tax.
California may be a great place to visit. But it’s just too expensive for Washington. There are better, more affordable ways to address climate adaptation. Copying California is not one of them.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Rep. Mary Dye, R-Pomeroy, is the ranking Republican on the House Environment and Energy Committee. She represents the 9th Legislative District.